Skip to main content

Full text of "The Gay Genius"

See other formats

Chapter Twenty-seven

TLJ AINAN was an island then under the Chinese empire, but in-
A A habited chiefly by the Loi aborigines, with a sprinkling of Chinese
settlers on the northern coast. Su Tungpo was there exiled beyond the
pale of the Chinese civilised world. Of all the hundreds of victims
of the regime, he was the only one to be sent to this place. Determined
to prevent a come-back of the Yuanyu officials, the government ordered,
in this and the following years, sweeping banishments and punish-
ments for all those connected with the previous regime. The order
for the banishment of Su Tungpo shortly preceded the depriving of
all offices and ranks of the children of Szema Kuang and the transfer
of a large number of the highest officials, including Tseyu and Fan
Chunien, to other places in southern and south-western China. Even
the old Wen Yenpo, who was now ninety-one, was not spared, but was
deprived of several of his ranks. What hit Su Tungpo most closely
was the order that the relatives of such exiled officials might not hold
offices in neighbouring districts. As Mai was to be a county magistrate
near Kukong, he also lost his job.

The house was about all that Su Tungpo had now. He had a total
of $200 provincial money or $150 in the currency of the capital, owed
him by the government for three years' service at his nominal rank.
The salary had not been paid and Su wrote to his good friend the
chief magistrate of Canton to use his good offices to have payment made
by the tax commissioner. This friend, Wang Ku, who had followed
Su Tungpo's suggestion in building a hospital and giving relief to the
poor, was, however, shortly dismissed for "giving relief without justi-
fication", as mentioned before, and there is no record whether Su's
claim was ever paid or not.

He was now sixty years old, according to Western reckoning. There
was no telling how long his exile was going to be, and the chances
were against his returning to China alive. The two sons accompanied
him as far as Canton and Mai said farewell to him on the bank of the
river, while Kuo, leaving his own family behind at Huichow, went
with him to Hainan. In order to reach his destination, Su had to go
up the Western River, journeying hundreds of miles, to Wuchow, in
what is modern Kwangsi, and then turn south to cross the sea from
the Luichow Peninsula. When he reached Wuchow, he learned that
his brother had just passed the town on his way to his new place of
confinement on that peninsula. One story based on conjecture says
that the two Su brothers were banished to these two districts because